Not Married and Not Overlooked: Michigan Church Shows Singles They Matter, Too
By Carl Stagner
It may not be intentional, but the pattern isn’t hard to recognize. The proliferation of excellent marriage and family ministry books, podcasts, and seminars over the past few decades has coincided generally with a greater focus on the married demographic. Marriage is so often mentioned in teaching illustrations and elevated to such prominence in Christian settings that those who may not be married—for whatever reason—feel excluded. In our efforts to minister to the married among us, we inadvertently overlook the singles. One Michigan church has taken steps to ensure that doesn’t happen.
“During the pandemic crisis, in which so many of us were isolated from the community that we are so accustomed to,” Pastor Chris Slosser recalls, “God gave me some revelation that resulted in a ministry we were later to launch into.” Slosser shepherds the flock at North Euclid Church of God in Bay City, Michigan. He’s not single himself; in fact, he was locked down in the company of his wife and son during COVID-19; however, the pastor still couldn’t help but feel the sting of prolonged isolation, like so many of us.
“God started revealing to me how lonely it must be to be single, or widowed, during a crisis like this,” he continues, “and it broke my heart for those who were. I started thinking about the many who had a whole house full of kids at one time around the dinner table, then their kids grew up, moved out, and it was mainly just them and their spouse around the dinner table. Then their spouse perhaps passed away, and how on most nights they now eat alone. I thought about how sad that must be for them, or for those who have suffered through a divorce they never wanted and spend many nights eating dinner alone; for those who are single and have no one to have a nice meal with. God showed me, in the midst of my own feeling of isolation, how lonely so many others really are.”
North Euclid Church of God had to respond to this need, which they would ultimately find out was more extensive than they’d realized. Pastor Chris got started recruiting married couples in the church who knew how to cook. He directed the fellowship hall to be decorated and set up like a fancy restaurant. He asked for volunteers to function as servers. He established parameters for the quality of food—no hot dogs or sloppy joes, Pastor Chris insisted. Barbecued ribs, pork chops, cheesy potatoes, and quality appetizers would fit the picture he had in mind. Indeed, the church launched a dinner ministry for singles in their church and surrounding community.
Pastor Chris explains. “We have a great appetizer for the first twenty minutes (salads, meat and cheese and crackers, homemade salsa and chips, etc.), then the main meal, for which we allot forty minutes to eat. After the meal, we have an ice-breaker, facilitated by a wonderful, loving woman named Betsy Holsing, so everybody gets a chance to know one another during that time. After the ice-breaker, we have a ten- to fifteen-minute devotion geared toward the challenges singles, or those who are lonely and desiring community, struggle with. After the devotional, we have a great dessert (like pie, brownies and ice cream, strawberry shortcake, etc.), and we give away door prizes. Then, before we dismiss, we let all our singles know the date of the next singles dinner (dinners take place every two months).”
Their efforts have seen tremendous success so far. About fifteen singles attended the first event; today that number has just about doubled. Feedback from attendees underscore the indisputable value of their investment. A grant from Thrivent Financial has assisted the church with the cost of food, and a “dream team” of married cooks, servers, and dishwashers have even developed community in their own right. Some from the community have begun to attend the church as a result of the dinners, though that’s not the church’s primary goal; they simply want to serve. Furthermore, the dinners are clearly understood not to be a “match-making” service, but an opportunity for people to walk with other singles in newfound and fruitful singleness.
“We feel this ministry is a fulfillment of the Great Commission and Great Commandment,” Pastor Chris reflects, “as well as James 1:27, which says, ‘religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’ I believe this verse also means we are to be deeply concerned for those who are single because that is the common denominator between orphans and widows, and I would add, widowers.’ …I remind my married congregants that, at any moment, they could be single and need a place of belonging, too, so we need to care not just about ourselves. God has deeply burdened my heart for those who are single and alone, and don’t just want to feel bad for others, I want to be used by God to do something to eliminate some of the problem in Jesus’ name. We need action, not just emotion, and I have a great team of ministers who feel the very same way I do. …We are believing God for even far greater things , to help our singles and those who are lonely in the years ahead , for that is what we feel our ministry heartbeat is at North Euclid Church of God.”
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Feature (top) photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash.